Tiger Shark at Aliwal Shoal, just off Howard’s Castle out of the Crown Area.
To do Baited Shark Diving …or not to do Baited Shark diving …That is the question.
Aliwal Shoal is a Marine Protected Area (MPA) meaning that our marine life is highly protected and users policed. Permits are stringently checked and prosecutors are heavily fined if the correct paperwork is not on their person aka boat.
So how can it be that it would be allowed for charters to do Baited Shark Diving? The argument is that by “chumming” or “baiting” the sharks are unnaturally lured to an area influencing the natural order of things.
Of course the counter argument to that would be that the sharks are not being fed, they’re already in the area and are just doing what they would naturally do – follow the scent of their food source. They are not fed and feeding is illegal. So by no means do they become dependent on the presence of humans for their source of food, nor do they associate the presence of humans to food or being fed. This has been proven by the presence of divers on any normal dive with the sharks in the same vicinity and no attention being paid by the shark to the divers. I’m no scientist but can tell you I’ve seen this on numerous occasions on my many dives at Aliwal Shoal.
Baited shark dives bring the pelagic sharks closer to the coast line, hindering the tourism industry by the presence of sharks close to the shoreline…aaaahhhh – let’s think about that…ahhh, No!!! All over the world sharks are found close to the shoreline, this has got nothing to do with baiting since we all know that baiting doesn’t happen all over the world. Oh, and might I mention that from where I’m standing, the baited dives are booming by tourists. It’s the tourists that are maintaining the demand, flocking in from all corners of the world to experience the wonder of our sharks. As South Africans we are spoilt by the richness of life in our waters and therefor do not appreciate fully the beauty and serenity of these animals.
Actually bringing the sharks closer to the coastline has saved many of the sharks that have traveled closer to the coastline because guess what?!? They’re not being caught in nets by trawlers. Having their fins cut off and dropped back in the ocean to drown over the next 3 days.
Baiting these sharks are making them complacent to humans in the water. Actually, this isn’t really a bad thing, it just means that they’re not going to take that exploratory nibble. The fact is, for most sharks, human blood contains too much iron, they don’t like how we taste. Problem is, they take that bite and their jaw is way stronger than human bone, so you may accidentally lose a leg or arm…and have a cool story to tell. By them knowing what we are, we make ourselves safer.
The other matter that seems to be forgotten about those who have done baited dives is that they have found a new respect for these animals, these Apex Predators are given their dues and a new awareness is created. Us in the industry are very well aware that 100 million sharks are killed per year putting most species, including the almighty Great White, on the endangered species list. By allowing divers (and snorkellers) the intimate experience that a Baited Shark Dive allows, they walk away with the biggest smile on their faces, the highest respect for these mystifying creatures not to mention the biggest advocates of the safety of these animals and their conservation.
Note: This article is based purely on my own opinion and observations. I have made no quotes nor references to the work of any persons nor entities working in the diving, baiting or fishing industries, just calling it like I see it, you can make up your own mind. All I’d like to add is: Don’t diss it til you try it.